Rising Son: Lessons about Travel & Life

I just had the opportunity to review Rising Son: A Father and Son’s Bike Adventure across Japan. I read this book–one of the most interesting parent/child “travelogues” you’ll ever read–at an appropriate time, because I’m traveling with my kids this week for the 1st time in about two years; single motherhood + special needs does not make trip-taking easy. And though our trip is very different from a rigorous bike expedition (we’re going to Disney), our circumstances make it challenging in its own ways for us, too.

But as I read Scott’s book, it gave me inspiration. Scott–a married NYC father of two–took time off from an important career and had faith that his young son could accomplish a great physical challenge beside him, creating memories to last a lifetime. Throughout the book, whether they are training here in NYC or undertaking their journey in far-off Japan, we learn about moments when Scott doubts his decision–like when his son balks at wearing certain riding gear, or when thunderstorms make their journey treacherous.

I’m only about 50 pages into the book so far (I wish I had more time to finish it), but already I think I’ve found the pep talk I need for my own trip this week. Because while my trip to Disney with my kids is obviously quite different from Scott’s biking across Japan with his son, in some ways it’s actually the same–pushing my kids and myself past our perceived boundaries. As other special needs parents know, there are many pitfalls in traveling (even with older kids)–such as the risk of major meltdowns at airports, on planes, in hotel lobbies, on rides, etc. One of my kids these days is very irritable and prone to tantrums. The other is extremely sensitive and can not handle crowds, lines, or changes in weather. Yes, we have a special needs pass to assist us at the Disney parks, but, still, this trip requires many deep breaths and leaps of faith. Did I mention that one child wakes daily at 5am and the other doesn’t fall asleep till 10:45pm? You do the math. “Vacation” may be a misnomer.

But “Rising Son” reminded me that you only have one life and one chance while your kids are young to challenge them (and yourself) to create wondrous memories (you know that Expedia commercial about Disney World? A real tearjerker).  Even though this will be quite far from a relaxing “vacation” (even by chaotic Disney standards), I can’t wait to go on It’s a Small World with my kids as I did with my own parents, to see my daughter’s glee when she goes on the scariest rides, and to see my son’s reaction when he meets the “real” Phineas & Ferb.  If we’ve laughed a lot by the end of our time at Disney–even if there have been many glitches–I’ll consider the trip a success.

So while I can only marvel about Scott and his son biking across all of Japan (my own goal is to have a successful day walking through Magic Kingdom with my kiddos), I know that we can take on our own challenges…with their own rewards.

I highly recommend Rising Son: A Father and Son’s Bike Adventure across Japan, and thank my high school classmate Alison Qualter Berna (one of the co-founders of Appleseeds here in NYC) for recommending it to me. Definitely keep this one in mind as a Father’s Day gift! You can buy the book for $11.84 at Amazon.com.